Ken Warren’s 10 Takes

For the past 18 years, Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils has rather quietly gone about his business in what could end up being a Hall of Fame career.

Ken Warren’s 10 Takes
New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias (26), Anton Volchenkov (28) and Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) fight for the puck during second period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Sunday, October 13, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan

For the past 18 years, Patrik Elias of the New Jersey Devils has rather quietly gone about his business in what could end up being a Hall of Fame career.

Perhaps the NHL and the players’ association should listen a little closer to what Elias has to say.

Elias touched on a couple of sensitive subjects when the Ottawa Senators visited Newark this week, wondering aloud about the short and long-term effects of Olympic participation and trying to squeeze too many games into too short a time frame. Elias even went so far as to suggest fatigue could be a factor in the seemingly never-ending string of controversial hits we see on our nightly highlight (or lowlight) shows.

“I’m actually looking forward to a normal regular season, without a lockout or the Olympics,” said Elias, who had scored 382 goals and 570 assists in 1,117 regular season games before Friday’s contest against the Anaheim Ducks. He also owns a pair of Stanley Cup rings.

“It’s quite a bit. You know, (the Devils) went through an 11-game stretch in 18 days. That’s nuts. And playing two back-to-backers (in that stretch), that’s a lot.

“I know they have to do it with all this Olympics and lockouts, just to get the games in, but you get a lot of guys injured and things are happening on the ice that you don’t want to see happening.”

Now, if you can put off the shovelling for a minutes and read to the end of 10 Takes, there’s a pre-Christmas mention of Noel, even if it isn’t particularly joyeux time for a coach on the hot seat.

1. STEAK BEFORE SIZZLE

The NHL has its eyes on adding an expansion team in Las Vegas. Why does the NHL continue to try so hard to sell the game in places where the locals call it ice hockey? If it’s all about selling to tourists, who have no loyalty to a home team, good luck. With all due respect to the hard marketing work of Saturday’s visitors from Phoenix, the NHL remains a tough sell in the desert. Meanwhile, those in Quebec City and southern Ontario wait with bated breath for word on Canadian expansion.

2. 41 … AND COUNTING

How long has Jaromir Jagr been scoring goals in the NHL? Senators defenceman Cody Ceci, who turns 20 Saturday, wasn’t born when Jagr won his second Stanley Cup. Jagr, 41, has now passed Gordie Howe for most game-winning goals in NHL history. He also ranked eighth in all-time goals scored, one behind Mark Messier, before Friday’s game against Anaheim. Speaking of 41-year-olds, Daniel Alfredsson scored two goals and an assist in Detroit’s 3-2 win over Calgary Thursday and Ray Whitney scored a pair for Dallas in a win over Colorado Tuesday.

3. DOWN, BUT NOT OUT

In yet another indication of Atlantic Division mediocrity, sportsclubstats.com numbers suggest New Jersey (60.1 per cent) and Philadelphia (40.7 per cent) stand a decent shot at making the playoffs. New Jersey began the year with one win in its first 10 games and Philly began the year 3-9-0. The numbers don’t look so good for the Senators — unless you’re a fan of the No. 1. The Senators stand an 11.1 per cent chance of seeing post-season action.

4. KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES

Ho, hum. Los Angeles Kings rookie goaltender Martin Jones stopped 31 of 32 shots Thursday and now has a 7-0-0 record, a 0.85 goals-against average and .971 save percentage, along with three shutouts. The Senators are the only team that has scored twice on Jones.

5. NO BLOCK PARTY

As defensively stingy as the Kings have been, it’s intriguing they rank at the bottom of the NHL in terms of blocked shots. Odd? Not according to Senators goaltender Robin Lehner, who says it’s by design. “They have a system,” Lehner says. “They don’t want their guys to block shots. It’s up to the goalie to see the puck. To be honest, we shouldn’t be letting in goals from the blueline. If we see (the puck), we should make the save. And if not, it’s our fault.”

6. GOALTENDING DEPTH

Senators goaltending prospects Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard aren’t in Sweden with Canada’s world junior team — the program opted to name Zachary Fucale and Jake Paterson as the netminders without a training camp competition — but the Senators couldn’t be happier with their development. Driedger won WHL goalie of the month in November and his Calgary Hitmen were Canada’s hottest junior team going into the break. Brassard was QMJHL goalie of the month in November after setting a league record for longest shutout streak.

7. LAST TEAM STANDING?

It’s old news that the NHL’s West is far superior than the East. But here’s a theory shared by many: an Eastern club may have the best shot at winning the Stanley Cup because of the beating Western teams will take in the playoffs. Consider the possibility of several gruelling, seven-game series. Based on Friday’s standings, for instance, St. Louis and San Jose would meet in the first round. Now add in the inevitable post-Olympic hangover and wear-and-tear will be an issue.

8. SHORT-TERM PAIN

Timing is everything. Just ask Alex Steen, who landed a three-year, $17.4 million extension with St. Louis this week, avoiding unrestricted free agency next summer. It’s a windfall for a guy who had never before scored more than 24 goals in a season, but it’s wiser than signing him to a long-term deal with a smaller annual salary. The argument is two words long: David Clarkson. Steen, by the way, needs only six goals to match the best season output of his father, former Winnipeg Jets star Thomas Steen.

9. SATURDAY STAT PACK

Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick and Tim Thomas, the possible goaltending trio for the U.S. Olympic team, had a combined record of 27-37-6 before Friday’s games. The possible Canadian threesome of Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury were 52-28-9 … The Tampa Bay Lightning have gone 9-7-3 since the Steve Stamkos injury … Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov owns an NHL worst plus/minus of minus-25. The Senators’ Milan Michalek is next at minus-21.

10. MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOEL

Speculation persists that Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel is fast running out of time behind the bench. The Jets were 10 points out of a playoff spot before Friday’s game against Florida. The Winnipeg situation is a case of being careful what you wish for. Winnipeg successfully campaigned for a move to the Western Conference. If they were still in the East, their 35 points would put them one back of the Philadelphia Flyers, the current playoff team with the fewest points.

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